Ralph Fiennes (the esteemed actor now best known for embodying Voldemort in the Harry Potter films) gave himself no small challenge for his first directorial effort. Coriolanus is a dense political Shakespeare play modernized by Fiennes and writer John Logan (Gladiator The Aviator Hugo) into a raw bloody war movie. The film maintains the play's original text a theatrical speech that manages to both heighten and impede the drama in certain instances. But Fiennes injects the material with unfiltered energy and even when the story is lost in its own intricacies it's visceral and commanding.
Presented against the nightmarish backdrop of "Rome " a Children of Men-esque land devastated by raging battles Coriolanus follows the troubled political career of Caius Martius Coriolanus (Fiennes) a general who fights resistance movements butts heads with local protestors and evades attack from influential statesmen. Martius is driven by one goal: to defeat his former friend and long-time nemesis Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler) leader of the opposing Volscian army. Rather than attend to the city's rioting population the general joins his military squad to breach the Volscian's walls in hopes of going mano a mano with Aufidius. Martius achieves victory after victory (without putting an end to his Aufidius troubles) becoming a hero to his government. Eventually through his overbearing mother's persuasion Martius is convinced to put down his semi-automatic and begin an ascent to political greatness. It doesn't go so well.
Even if the abridged version of Coriolanus presented in the adaptation was a slow-paced talky drama every detail of Shakespeare's complicated narrative may still be difficult to parse but Fiennes isn't looking to hold any hands. He shoots his movie with the kineticism of a Bourne movie or the recent Hurt Locker full of shaky cam movement and too-close-for-comfort close-ups. He uses the extreme presentation of 24 news networks to replicate in Shakespeare's expository asides while bombarding our senses. He has a cast who can deliver The Bard's poetic dialogue with a cadence that fits realistic setting. The sound and feel of the language is as important as the meaning.
Fiennes isn't as concerned with audiences registering every last minutiae of Coriolanus and he takes every opportunity he can to let his cast off their leash to dig into the drama's inherent intensity. The director/actor plays Caius Martius Coriolanus like a rabid dog—crazed behind the eyes and ready to unleash a barrage of hellfire and spit. Butler's Tullus Aufidius is a low-key foil but when the two finally butt heads neither gentleman holds back. The real stand out is Vanessa Redgrave as Martius' mother Volumnia whose hushed manipulation is even more terrifying than Martius' over aggression.
Coherence isn't the priority in Coriolanus and attempts to connect with the characters becomes a chore but Fiennes's first foray into directing is enjoyable in the exhilaration it delivers to a time-honored text. Forget your memories of 11th grade English—this is unique adrenaline-infused Shakespeare.
February 11, 2011 11:07am EST
Coriolanus, the directorial debut of Oscar-nominated thespian and general British bad-ass Ralph Fiennes, has long been completed, but so few have seen his adaptation of the Shakespeare play. With a cast that includes Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain and Vanessa Redgrave, the demand to see the film is certainly out there, but there hasn't been a distributor brave or bold enough to carry it. Enter The Weinstein Brothers.
The boys from Queens have stepped up to the plate to bring this seemingly splendid motion picture to the masses, as the company today announced that they'll distribute the movie sometime this year. I personally can't wait to see Fiennes' revisionist take on the classic tale, which centers on a banished hero of Rome allies with a sworn enemy to take his revenge on the city. The wonderful wordsmith John Logan (The Aviator, Sweeney Todd) penned the screenplay, providing yet another reason to get excited about the production. Have a look at a pair of photos from the film below, and read on for the official press release:
New York, NY, February 11, 2011 – The Weinstein Company (TWC) announced today that it has acquired from Icon Entertainment International (IEI) U.S. rights and Pan Asian pay TV rights to CORIOLANUS, the feature directorial debut of Academy Award® nominated actor Ralph Fiennes. A contemporary staging of Shakespeare’s classic play about the titular Roman warrior, CORIOLANUS stars Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Academy Award® winner Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain and James Nesbitt. CORIOLANUS will make its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival this Monday, February 14. TWC plans a 2011 release. Said TWC Co-Chairman, Harvey Weinstein, “My brother’s and my relationship with Ralph stretches back many years and includes two of our most cherished productions, THE ENGLISH PATIENT and THE READER. He’s a brilliant artist, and we are honored and delighted to partner with him in bringing CORIOLANUS to American moviegoers.” Ralph Fiennes said, “I'm thrilled that Harvey and TWC will distribute CORIOLANUS in the U.S. His response to the film was overwhelmingly passionate. He really embraced it. This has been a long road and I cannot think of a better company to do it in the U.S.” Said IEI Managing Director, Hugo Grumbar, “TWC is the perfect U.S. home for Ralph’s visceral, stunning debut.” The deal was negotiated for TWC by David Glasser, Chief Operating Officer, Michal Steinberg, Senior Vice President Business Affairs, Kelly Carmichael, Senior Vice President Production and Daniel Guando, Vice President Acquisitions; and for IEI by Grumbar and Estelle Overs, Head of Legal and Business Affairs. CORIOLANUS is produced by Ralph Fiennes; Julia Taylor-Stanley for Artemis Films; Gabrielle Tana for Magnolia Mae Films; and Colin Vaines for Synchronistic Inc. It was adapted for the screen by John Logan, (SWEENEY TODD, THE AVIATOR, GLADIATOR). Barry Ackroyd (GREEN ZONE, THE HURT LOCKER, UNITED 93) is the Director of Photography. The film is being distributed in the U.K. by Lionsgate UK. Source: The Weinstein Company
Set in 1984 Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) returns to her ice-cold hometown in Northern Minnesota after fleeing from an abusive husband. In order to care for her two young kids she needs a job--and for most of the townsfolk including her distant dad (Richard Jenkins) that means working in the local iron mines. Problem is not too many women work there and those who do are subjected to continual harassment by their male coworkers. Josey lands a job anyway and starts to get her fair share of sexual innuendos. One day her former high-school sweetheart also a mine employee takes it way too far with her. Although met with strong resistance of course a lawsuit ensues that results in a groundbreaking decision for women’s rights in the workplace. Ah what an Oscar can do for a career. It wasn't that long ago Theron wouldn’t even have been considered for such a dramatic role. But with deserved recognition she gets to strut her stuff in North Country. She's no Monster but she's no supermodel either--and while it's impossible to erase her beauty its glare has been reduced. A second-consecutive Oscar win? Maybe not but a nomination wouldn't be out of the place. Co-star Frances McDormand might also be in line for a nod of her own. She plays Glory a woman who gets Josey the job and encourages her to fight the good fight something that seems visceral for McDormand. Woody Harrelson is also solid as Josey's attorney though his Midwest-stoner drawl gets in the way of the northern accent he's supposed to be selling. New Zealand director Niki Caro mightily impressed us with Whale Rider a poignant mixture of grief and vigor and with North Country she continues to impress. As more an observer than anything else Caro lets the true story tell itself--of what happened in this small town with its frigid denizens and sexist behavior. And the film is definitely a period piece á la Norma Rae in that it's from a specific period albeit a recent one and pertains to a specific region. But it's kind of slow going. There’s a lot of weeping and dramatic speeches. Still Caro makes up for it by including several Bob Dylan songs who rarely grants the use of his songs in films. Perhaps he felt a certain a kinship to this film since it takes place in the desolate cold Northern Minnesota where he comes from--and so resents.